Seen at Starbucks on Academy Road Monday morning, 97-year-old Bill Shell looked impeccable. Not only does he still cook, work out and drive, he takes time every morning to carefully pick out his outfit that consists of a tie, a sports jacket or a suit. "You're not dressed up unless you're wearing a tie," says Shell, half smiling. A tie is definitely his fashion essential, but the detailed accessories like his pocket square (puff, as he calls it), colourful socks and hat are what really makes his outfit top-notch. Shell and his wife, Ruth, who's 94, love good quality clothing. He does most of his shopping through catalogues but doesn't mind taking a stroll through the mall and picking out something nice at the Coach store for his wife.
"I'm going to tell you something interesting," he says. "We've been married now for 72 years. I think we are the oldest couple now that still gets the Winnipeg Free Press. We are both still alive, both well and I don't think there is another couple of our age that has been taking the paper for 72 years."
What he wore...
Shell's outfit was mostly ordered through catalogues like H. Halpern Esq. in Toronto. But he also orders from Vancouver and Montreal for Italian-made brands not sold here in Winnipeg. He keeps his timeless wardrobe organized; ties are on an electronic tie rack that spins around until you pick the one you want to wear.
Where did you get your jacket?
"Truthfully, I don't shop. If I want a suit, I'll go to my tailors, Ralph's on Corydon. He has my measurements and if he gets something I might like, he'll make me a suit because he knows my size. If I want a shirt or a tie I'll get catalogues and order from Toronto or Montreal and see what they have to offer. I enjoy clothes. Not only do I enjoy clothes but also my wife likes to see me get dressed up every morning. I wear a suit every morning and I go exercise, walk two miles, go to the steam room, have a shower, then make breakfast for my wife and myself. I cook, but it's my wife's mouth and my hands. She tells me what to do. Then go shopping for groceries."
Do you wear a suit every day?
"Yeah. I've got a lot of sweaters, too. My daughter's in Calgary -- if she finds a nice cashmere vest sweater, I'll say, 'Sure, send it down,' and I send her the money."
Where did you get your hat?
"See, I've got three different hats. This is Brooks. You can't get Brooks anymore. They were expensive. I've got blue, a light-coloured one and a dark brown one that will go with my dark suit. I'm clothes crazy."
"This is casual today, but I wear a tie every day. People laugh at me at the Asper Campus because I'm the only one who wears a tie. If you don't wear a tie you're really not dressed. I don't own a pair of jeans because I think it's too casual. I have a pair of socks that will knock your eyes out. I look for quality."
"My dad used to like to dress up; he liked clothes. It was different times; you're going back 75 years ago. I was in the dental supply business and I supplied the dentist with whatever they needed. When you're dealing with professional people you always want to look professional and look your best all the time."
Does it make you feel like you can take on the world?
"Maybe not the whole world but half of the world, yeah," says Shell, laughing.
"I probably have about 70 ties; they're special, some made in Italy. But it doesn't matter, the suit -- it's the shirt and the tie that make the suit. And the little puff (pocket square) and socks that makes the suit come together."
What does wearing a poppy mean to you?
"I support the cause. I feel good wearing a poppy; my wife, too. I think everyone should have one."
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